International Women’s Day: Female leaders at Sovereign share their proudest moments and best advice
International Women’s Day (March 8) is all about celebrating and empowering women, so what better time to shine a light on some of Sovereign’s inspiring female leaders.
As we continue to advance our diversity and inclusion efforts, we’re happy to report that women comprise 40% of our senior management team. And as we chart a new path with our next four-year strategy, we continue to expand opportunities for women across our organization.
Today, we’re proud to share the stories of five women at Sovereign, highlighting their career achievements, future goals, and advice to empower other women in the insurance industry.
Jennifer Jacoby, AVP, MGA Portfolio & Strategic Partnerships
For Jennifer Jacoby, a key to success is drawing from the past to tackle new challenges.
“Although odds are the exact same circumstances won’t come up again, using the lessons learned has been instrumental in helping me navigate challenges and lead others,” says Jennifer.
She spent 12 months transitioning from Manager, MGA Portfolio, to AVP, which has given her some perspective on her impact on the team.
“Getting out of the day-to-day has allowed me to view the team from a different lens,” Jennifer says. “I am so proud to see each of them has taken on the vision and is carrying it forward, knowing I had a hand in shaping that.”
Jennifer’s advice to other women is to build a network of people to rely on, whether that’s through formal mentorship or a close group of professionals. “Having a few people you trust and respect is a lifeline for success,” says Jennifer. “No one makes it through their career on their own and building these relationships will help you as you move through the different phases of your career.”
Like her colleagues, Jennifer is excited about Sovereign’s next phase. “I have barely begun my journey as an AVP and it is an incredibly exciting time for MGA and strategic partnerships as we begin the next four-year strategy,” she says. “I’m looking forward to refining my leadership voice and presence within the organization.”
Portia Myrvang, Regional Underwriting Manager, Commercial Solutions
When Portia Myrvang was contacted for an interview for an underwriting trainee position back in 2003, she remembers doing a google search to find out what an underwriter was hours before her scheduled interview. “I had no idea that would be the start to an amazing career journey where I get to learn something new every single day,” she says.
20 years later, Portia believes that the industry can still do a lot more to bring awareness about the various career opportunities in insurance. She believes that careers in insurance are the best kept secret, “With the talent gap ever increasing as people age closer to retirement, it is more critical than ever to share our stories and educate people about the exciting and unlimited growth opportunities in our industry.”
What she’s most proud of in her career at Sovereign is building a collaborative and successful team of underwriters with diverse strengths and personalities. “I’m proud of the culture of transparency we have in our branch,” says Portia, “We trust and respect each other and constantly give each other open and honest feedback.”
Key to Portia’s success is staying curious and learning from everyone around her, being adaptable to changing circumstances by always staying present, and seeing challenges as opportunities.
To empower other women, she advises: “Get out of your own way. Sometimes we can be our own worst critic. When you feel that self-doubt, practise self-kindness and remind yourself of your strengths.”
Krista Brown, Commercial Underwriting Manager, Atlantic Region
Krista Brown has been in the insurance industry for 15 years, including 8 years at Sovereign.
For Krista, success is having a career that is fulfilling – “doing work you find meaningful, work that continues to challenge you, and provides opportunities to learn and grow,” she says.
She is most proud of her ability to adapt and learn to be comfortable with being uncomfortable. “It took me a while to develop the confidence to go outside of my comfort zone,” Krista says. “I’d think ‘I can’t do that,’ but then challenge myself and realize ‘I can do this, I’m good at it, and I actually enjoy it.’”
Krista wants other women to know they define what success is to them and are the drivers of their own success. “Don’t be afraid to ask questions, be curious, ask for opportunities and challenging assignments, show why you are ready for the next step in your career, or make a plan to show how you are going to develop the skills and knowledge to move to that next step,” she says.
In her own career, Krista is excited about her next step as a manager. “I recently transitioned into a formal leadership role, so what’s next for me is really diving in and understanding and evolving my leadership style.”
Gunjan Dave, AVP, Project & Process Optimization
Gunjan Dave has built a successful 20-year career on her passion for process excellence, belief in collaboration, and love of leading teams.
“I enjoy helping companies be more efficient, effective and excel operationally,” says Gunjan. “The love for what I do enables me to find ways to succeed in different initiatives.”
One of her proudest achievements in a previous role was leading a team to develop improvements that eliminated backlogs, increased customer satisfaction, and improved employee satisfaction. “This was achieved within a matter of months and with minimal investment,” she says.
Gunjan joined Sovereign as Manager, Project & Process Optimization in March 2021, and just a year later was promoted to AVP. In terms of what’s next, Gunjan says, “I’m excited about the start of our new four-year strategy and all that can be built upon the foundation being laid out.”
She shares this advice to other women: “Never self-reject or underestimate yourself. Have belief and confidence to take on new challenges.”
Eileen Devlin, AVP Finance
Eileen Devlin joined Sovereign Insurance in 2021, coming from a previous role at parent company, The Co-operators.
One key to Eileen’s success is surrounding herself with people who value her potential. “I’ve been fortunate to have worked for incredible leaders who have gone out of their way to provide me with opportunities that have accelerated my success,” she says. “Their perspective on what I am capable of has been extremely valuable in building my self-confidence.”
One of her proudest career moments came when a direct report told her they had never built trust with their people leader as quickly as they had with her. “This was impactful for many reasons,” Eileen says. “Trust is one of the most important – and often the most challenging – foundational elements of a working relationship to achieve.”
Her advice to other women is you don’t need to have all the answers, but you do need to be authentic.
“Not having an answer rarely leads to your potential being devalued, and being authentic will – in most cases – make you even more appealing,” Eileen says. “It also makes the people around you feel more at ease and pairing that with the commitment to problem-solve will show you care.”